I admit before you all that I am a fan of Science Fiction, and to a lesser extent Fantasy. While I don’t game, I read. I read avidly anyway, and for pleasure read a great deal of science fiction, some fantasy, and some other sub-genres that defy easy categorization (and may be of dubious enough parentage that the offspring could be mutants). I watch some television and movies based on same, though not all.
Both Mom and Dad loved to read, and encouraged that from an early age. Given health and related issues, reading was my escape and exploration option. An early memory is of my Dad reading comics to me, and to confirm both age and geekiness, I miss Henry and some of the comics of a more innocent age. Fiction was my way to explore, and sadly I was turned off to science fiction and related early on by some early exposure.
Money being in short supply, most of my reading was done courtesy of the Macon/Bibb County public library. The main and Riverside branch librarians came to tolerate and encourage (for the most part, with one exception that still sticks in my mind) my forays out from the children’s section into adult reading. It was one of the librarians at Riverside who suggested that despite my early experience I might enjoy some science fiction. She slowly talked me into reading some good science fiction, and I was hooked. Blish, Clarke, Heinlein, the doors opened and I read anything and everything. If I liked a story, I then ready everything they had by that author. If not, I might try one more story, then moved on.
Of course, I wanted to be all the things kids normally do: fireman, policeman, astronaut (still do, actually, just not with stick in the ass NASA), etc. Yet, the telling of stories and the taking of photographs has always been the dream. It was science fiction, via the original Star Trek, that led me to realize one might could do both. Finding out the “real” identities of some authors only added to it. The late Jimmy Doohan actually advised me a bit on this, and the discussion we had while I was still in high school is a treasured memory. He had come to Macon for an event, and I was one of about three people that showed up. We ended up talking, and I told him of my plans to pursue engineering in college despite doctors and others telling me I could not do it. (Side note: If I had listened to the doctors, and even my mother to a lesser extent, I would not be here today. Short version, I was born allergic to almost everything, had some other medical issues, and learned-types said I would not live, would not thrive, and would never graduate high school much less be capable of college-level work.)
Jimmy was at first somewhat horrified that his portrayal of Scotty had so inspired me. As we talked, he quickly realized that I had thought it out, done a bit of research, and had a plan though I knew it would be difficult/nearly impossible. By the end of the conversation, he was encouraging and supportive though reminding of reality. It was the first of several conversations over the years, and it was one of the most unique academic counseling sessions I’ve had.
Indeed, engineering did not work out (calculus, actually) but it was discovered that I could translate scientificese and engineerese into something close to American (I gave up on English years ago, few here speak it). So, instead of the fiction and photography, I found myself covering science and technology first as a science journalist, and then as an “evil” paid flack. This lead to working at AEDC, and then twice as a contractor for NASA. Picked up a couple of small awards along the way.
I also picked up something else. My first job out of college was at what was then the largest independent bookstore in the southeast. It was both a job (needed) and a deliberate choice so I could learn about the business of book sales and a bit about that end of publishing. One of my co-workers was a dealer at cons, and he talked me into helping him at a con in Atlanta, and thus began my entry into cons and organized fandom. Aside from helping him, my goal was to meet editors, publishers, and authors and learn from them. In those days, cons were a great way to network, and learn. I cheerfully did so.
Not only did I attend them, I began taking part on panels and was even an invited guest to a number of conventions. I helped out a bit here and there, and because of my PR/PAO duties of the day, became Manager of Media Relations for ConFederation, the 44th World Science Fiction Convention held in Atlanta. It was an amazing experience, as I did both that job and was, once again, on a number of panels. I still thank the late Robert “Horseclans” Adams for preventing me from having to use one of the contingency press releases I had ready to go, and love telling the story of having Larry Niven literally throw me at a fan after a panel so he could escape.
It was also my full introduction to SMOFs (Secret Masters of Fandom), cliques, and related. Frankly, I didn’t care if someone was with the right organization or group, all I cared about was if they could help us or hurt us. There was a major pro author who hurt us badly, and there was a lady from an organization (of which I am personally quite leery) who was an amazing help to us. My take in most things is that I don’t care about a persons beliefs or personal activities, much less the wrapper they live in, but in if they are the right person for the job and can and will do a good job with the task at hand. That is not everyone’s cup of tea, to be polite, and by the end of the con I was quite disgusted with organized Fandom. Add to it that I was being “warned” by some big-name (at the time) editors/publishers that I was dangerously close to being labeled a “fan writer…”
It was during this time that I first truly met Uncle Timmy, who was not well loved by certain crowds even then. It was this fact that led me spend some time with him and his group, who had taken over a good bit of a nearby hotel removed from official WorldCon activities. Long story short, I found myself recruited and helping with science programming at his new venture, LibertyCon. Something I did for many years.
To see the number of conventions — literary, media, and other — that now do this pleases me no end. It was not the norm, and I will say that Timmy and LibertyCon helped blaze that trail to what I see as the enrichment of all.
I honestly can’t remember when I first met Toni Weisskopf and Jim Baen, but to call them a breath of fresh air is an understatement. They encouraged me to move into writing fiction, and we discussed some projects including a joint project with a well-known writer. Sadly, that did not work out. I will say right now that I think Jim and Toni both believed in me long before I believed in myself in regards being able to write good fiction (at least other than some AARs).
Why the trip down memory lane, you ask? Well, despite reading science fiction and fantasy from an early age, and being involved with some elements of Fandom since high school, I am apparently not a real fan. I am also, apparently, not a real writer/author. At least according to the crowd no-longer-known-as-SMOFs-but-now-CHORFS.
If you heard splatting booms yesterday, it was CHORF heads exploding at the Hugo nominations. As a bit of background, WorldCon attendance has dropped over the years, and it is the members of any given WorldCon that vote on the Hugo awards (for non fans, think Oscar’s of SF&F). For a while now, low membership and attendance in WorldCons has made it easy to game the system in a quiet way to ensure that only the “right” type of works were nominated and that only the “right” type actually won. A couple of years ago, Larry Corriea and some others decided to expose what was going on, and see about making the awards truly inclusive, diverse, and to see actual good writing start winning over those that were poorly written but had the right message. This has completely unhinged an already unhinged group of creatures, who have attacked the effort and Larry with vitriol, lies, and more.
This year, the effort was led by Brad Torgersen, and the result was the inclusion of a diverse range of prose written by a group of politically, genderly (who cares if it’s a real word, it works and you know it), orientationally, etc. authors. The CHORFS are now even more outraged, and perfectly happy to completely nuke the Hugo awards into total irrelevancy rather than see a broad range of fans and readers (and potential customers of said writings) take part in “their” award and sandbox.
Hugo nominee Michael Z. Williamson has already written an excellent post on the whole “not a real fan” idiocy, and there is more on the whole issue for those that truly wish to be informed at The Mad Genius Club and Sarah A. Hoyt’s place.
For me, I ain’t right in the head, and am happy that I ain’t the right type of fan. I’m a fan who reads, watches, and jumps in to get my hands dirty up to the elbows. I’m a fan who didn’t want to jump into the fiction market until I was happy with the quality of what I was writing. If that is wrong, I don’t want to be right. I want to be good, to enjoy what I enjoy, and to blow cigar smoke into the faces of the CHORFs.
Begun the SF&F Culture Wars have. Now, let’s go win it and take back a great part of our culture.
My post on why us “non-real” fans should call ourselves “Franks” can be found here. More to come, I’m sure.
And speaking of which, you really should read this excellent open letter from Larry to the moderates, fence sitters, and others. Links in there to a lot of needed background and history. Bravo sir!